Writing a freedom camping Bylaw
The Hurunui is a special place and as such attracts a lot of visitors wanting to share in it.
With spectacular scenery and borders that stretch from the ocean to the mountains, it’s no wonder this is such a sought after destination.
This popularity comes with responsibilities; we need to both look after our beautiful district and take care of our visitors – some of who, prefer to freedom camp.
In New Zealand there are laws that protect the right to freedom camp. We see it as our job to uphold these rights, while also protecting the environmental, social, cultural and economic values of our place
New Zealand’s Legislation on Freedom Camping
It is the law that freedom camping be permitted in any area controlled by a local authority like the Hurunui District Council (Freedom Camping Act 2011).
Local Authorities can restrict or prohibit freedom camping in areas under their control, only by creating a Freedom Camping Bylaw, but these bylaws must not prohibit freedom camping absolutely/altogether (Freedom Camping Act 2011).
Creating a Freedom Camping Bylaw in the Hurunui
Many of our residents asked us to create a new, refreshed freedom camping bylaw that restricts or prohibits freedom camping in the Hurunui. New Zealand law allows us to do this in specific circumstances:
We must have sufficient evidence that restricting or prohibiting freedom camping in an area or location is necessary in order to:
- Protect the area
- Protect the health and safety of people who may visit the area
- Protect access to the area
We must also be able to show that ‘restricting or prohibiting’ is the most appropriate/proportionate response to any problems being experienced – we need to be sure that any problem could not be fixed by things like better signage, facilities or information.
|Local Government New Zealand guidance gives the following examples as reasons to restrict or prohibit freedom camping|
|Protect the area||Protect the health and safety of people who may visit the area||Protect access to the area|
|Vandalism to the area||Any offences committed in the area||The use of the area by the general public|
|Damage to the area||Health issues, such as unsanitary conditions due to waste||Complaints about access to the area being compromised because of the presence of freedom campers|
|Injury to indigenous fauna|
|Littering of the area||Safety issues, such as traffic hazards in the area||Council Officers observing any issues anticipated with access|
|Amenity values not being sufficiently protected|
What we have done to Date
Our Freedom Camping Bylaw has been through four rounds of consultation with our communities and interested parties and our council officers have made many changes based on the feedback received. Current Freedom Camping Bylaw Document (PDF)
Finding the correct balance between the rights of freedom campers and the desires of residents and business owners is a complex process. Both our campers and our residents have rights that we are taking care of (New Zealand Bill of Rights) and this process will take time.
Currently, those wishing to freedom camping in the Hurunui can use our Freedom camping map or the advice available in an app called CamperMate to find an appropriate location.
Our Chief Strategy and Community Officer, Judith Batchelor, said council is committed to ensuring the freedom camping bylaw is appropriate and effective. She explained the process of council’s response to freedom camping is ongoing.
“Councils are not able to make a bylaw that has the effect of completely prohibiting freedom camping and the Hurunui is a beautiful place, extremely appealing to tourists” she said. “Any restrictions on freedom camping must successfully protect our residents and district, but must also be justifiable in relation to the nature and scope of the problems being experienced and a reasonable restriction of a person’s rights”.
The Latest Action
During a Council Meeting in April (30/04/2020), our Councillors made some amendments to our Freedom Camping Bylaw. The amendments in question had previously been postponed until after the effects of another camping season and responsible camping efforts could be considered.
The Council acknowledged that Responsible Camping Funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had greatly assisted additional camping monitoring, rubbish bins and signage in the district as well as the employment of a camping ambassador for the Gore Bay/Cheviot area. It considered the impact of these additional measures on freedom camping behavior.
1) The Council resolved to restrict the two freedom camping spaces on Cheltenham Street (in Hanmer Springs) to self-contained vehicles only.
2) The Council resolved to retain the status quo at Chisholm Park (in Hanmer Springs).
3) The Council requested that officers report back on the feasibility of reviewing the location of freedom camping spaces in Hanmer Springs by September 2020.
4) The Council resolved to prohibit freedom camping in Gore Bay.
Mayor Black said that the vote was split right down the middle for both the Cheltenham Street and Gore Bay decisions and explained she had to use her casting vote to reach final decisions.
“The split votes were reflective of the complex range of issues that need to be considered,” she said. “Finding the right balance between protecting local amenity and providing for the legal rights of freedom campers has been very difficult.”
What can residents do to Ensure Responsible Freedom Camping in this District?
- Be friendly and welcoming, as tourism is essential for our area.
- If you identify any problems, please take a photo and send it in through Snap Send Solve or email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org